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Harrison beats Basilashvili to win Memphis Open

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. —¬†Ryan Harrison served up the ace that won him his first career ATP World Tour title, then stuck both hands over his head pointing index fingers skyward in celebration.

A tour title.

Finally.

Better yet, Harrison won before family, friends and supporters who watched him grow up in Shreveport, Louisiana, on a court at the tennis club he knew intimately before ever playing his first professional match here.

Harrison beat Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-1, 6-4 on Sunday to win the Memphis Open at The Racquet Club.

“It’s always special to win a title, and especially your first one,” an emotional Harrison said. “But when you’re winning it like this in front of our family and friends and people who’ve come out and supported you ever since I was playing 10 and under events … it definitely means a lot to win that in front of everybody like that.”

Harrison, 24, took the first set in 27 minutes before fighting off 10 break points in the second to win the match in 1 hour, 16 minutes. For the match, Harrison saved all 12 break points faced.

He took home the winner’s check of $114,595 and 250 points. This victory is expected to move Harrison to No. 43 in the world, matching his career-best ranking reached in July 2012. Since then, the American had dipped to as low as 197 in the rankings as recently as Oct. 20, 2014. Last March, Harrison was just 168th to make this climb back even more special.

“For me to be where I am now and where I was seven, eight months ago and feeling like there was no light at the end of the tunnel, it’s surreal,” Harrison said. “I honestly can’t believe it. It’s just so amazing to me.”

He joined Gilles Muller (Sydney) as a first-time winner on tour this year and is the first to make Memphis his inaugural ATP title since Joachim Johansson in 2004. Harrison also became the 14th American to win Memphis in the 41-year history of this indoor event and first since Andy Roddick in 2011.

With a Challenger title won in Dallas two weeks ago, Harrison is the first since David Goffin in 2014 to win a Challenger event and then an ATP title in back-to-back tournaments. He teamed with Steve Johnson in the doubles final after a quick turnaround and lost 6-3, 6-4 to American Brian Baker and Nikola Mektic of Croatia.

This was Basilashvili’s second career ATP final and first since Kitzbuehel last year. He knocked off top-seeded Ivo Karlovic in the second round. He upset Dominic Thiem, ranked eighth in the world, to reach the semifinals in Sofia last week. Basilashvili said he just didn’t have the energy to cover the court as he had in matches over the past two weeks.

Harrison handled Basilashvili’s powerful strokes by moving way back from the baseline, often playing shots a step behind the Memphis logo on either end of the court.

In the first set, Basilashvili had his best chance to break Harrison in the first game at 15-40. Basilashvili crashed to the court moving to his right on his first break point as Harrison pushed the game to deuce and held serve when Basilashvili put a backhand into the net. Harrison broke Basilashvili to go up 3-1 and again in the sixth game on his way to winning the set.

Basilashvili had a chance to break Harrison in each of the American’s five service games in the second set. Each time, Harrison fought back starting in the second game as the American served up an ace that just caught the line. He forced deuce where Basilashvili hit a forehand long to give the American the advantage, then Harrison served up his second ace to hold serve.

“Ryan played unbelievable on his break points,” Basilashvili said.

Harrison broke Basilashvili to go up 3-2, then fought back from 0-40 to force deuce and hold serve for a 4-2 lead. He had to battle back to force deuce in the eighth game and trailed again 15-40 in the final game. Harrison finished off the win with an ace to start celebrating.

Raonic withdraws from Miami Open with hamstring injury

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) Milos Raonic has pulled out of the Miami Open after aggravating a right hamstring injury that sidelined him for nearly a month.

The No. 3-seeded Raonic withdrew before Sunday’s match against American qualifier Jared Donaldson, who advanced to the fourth round.

Raonic said his injury became progressively worse after his opening match, his first since Feb. 25. He expects to be sidelined at least two weeks and perhaps longer.

The Canadian said he hasn’t made it through an entire tournament healthy since Wimbledon last July.

Nadal advances to start bid for first Key Biscayne

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KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — Rafael Nadal’s first fist pump Friday followed his second point in the Miami Open, when he kissed a forehand off the sideline to win a long rally.

He accompanied the celebratory gesture with a skip in his step and then hit the accelerator, holding every service game to beat Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-4.

Thus began Nadal’s latest bid to win Key Biscayne.

“A lot of big motivation,” he said.

He’s playing the tournament for the 13th time and has never won it, although he was the runner-up in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014. At 0 for 12, it’s Nadal’s longest drought at any event, and perhaps the most glaring gap in the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s resume.

Does it bug him? He won’t admit to any frustration, but lets slip that he still remembers the exact score when he was two points from the title in the third set versus Novak Djokovic.

That was six years ago.

“Against Novak – 6-5, 15-30,” Nadal said. “It didn’t happen.”

The Spaniard has always enjoyed the atmosphere in Miami, where Latin fans give him enthusiastic support, and he likes the tournament’s hard courts. He’s simply overdue.

“I’m trying my best every year,” Nadal told the stadium crowd after dispatching Sela. “I’ve been very close four times. I will try to give myself another chance.”

Nadal is 15-4 this year and pleased with his play. He lost to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final, and again in the fourth round at Indian Wells last week.

Against Sela, Nadal served well, erased the only two break points he faced and overcame the occasional errant groundstroke on a windy afternoon.

“It was very difficult to find the right feelings,” Nadal said. “These kind of days, what you have to do is try to win. That’s what I did, and I’m happy with that.”

Making Nadal’s title bid easier will be the absence of six-time champion Djokovic and two-time champion Andy Murray, both out with elbow injuries.

But No. 3-seeded Milos Raonic is back. He won in his first match since Feb. 25, beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-5. Raonic had been sidelined by a right leg injury.

“I’ve prepared the best I can for this tournament,” Raonic said. “I’m not necessarily in the best position right now, but fortunately it’s a long tournament. Doesn’t mean things can’t change and I can’t get better throughout this event.”

No. 2 Kei Nishikori beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3. No. 7 Marin Cilic lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

In women’s play, Elena Vesnina made a quick exit only five days after winning the biggest title of her career. Seeded 13th, Vesnina lost her opening match to wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Indian Wells final.

In a match that took two days because of rain, No. 6 Garbine Muguruza rallied past Christina McHale 0-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. No. 3 Simona Halep beat Naomi Osaka 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. American qualifier Taylor Townsend eliminated No. 25 Robert Vinci 6-3, 6-2.